In conjunction with the 2014 InterCork II campaign being launched by APCOR, the international trade body representing cork producers from Portugal, I would like to elaborate further on their efforts while extolling the many virtues cork flooring has to offer the independent retailer.

Intercork II is a social media based consumer driven program that is guaranteed to produce additional foot traffic across North American showrooms this year. It also builds on the original momentum created by the 2010 campaign, which was enthusiastically endorsed by consumers and one of the world’s most renowned fashion designers, Candice Olson. The underlying goal of this campaign is to further spread the message of cork’s features and benefits. It is very apparent the more people learn about cork, the more they will understand it and invest in it.

Not many people realize cork is such an incredibly diverse material of which there are numerous different products that are manufactured from it. Cork is used in the aerospace, aviation, automobile, men’s and women’s fashion, athletic as well as floor covering industries. Cork is a great material that is able to maintain the perfect balance between the many environmental, social and economic issues that are faced around the world today.

As a product, cork has been around for 2,000 years beginning with Roman times when it was used as a floating device in the fishnets they used with which to catch their weekly meals. It has grown and evolved to the point that demand for products with its unique style and design is at an all-time high. It is no different with cork in today’s floor covering business as well.

Floor covering products manufactured with cork have reached post recession highs and are poised for double-digit growth again in 2014. Cork is truly a miracle from nature that provides capacity for high style fashion products while at the same time adapting to the many demands of the technological advancements required by the world of innovation that we live in today. The U.S. consumer is more cognizant than ever regarding products that are environmentally friendly and contribute positively to our long-term sustainability on Earth.

Cork flooring in the last 10 years has evolved from a traditional cork board look in a 12x36-inch panel to the incredibly high style visuals provided in the extremely popular 5½x48-inch planks on the market today. This transformation in design has led to much larger average job sizes in today’s residences and to very explosive sales growth on the commercial side of things as well. Cork is now available in 18x24-inch tiles as well as the original panel feature already mentioned.

The natural properties of cork are a result of its structure and chemical composition. Its honeycomb like structure contains 40 million cells in its makeup per every cubic centimeter. Take a moment and think about how amazing that actually is. Cork is the name that is given to the suber or suberose tissue formed by the phellogen of the cork oak tree. That’s correct, cork is a wood product that is harvested from a Portuguese oak tree. This helps dispel the myth that cork is a soft surface product.


Secret Ingredient

Cork’s secret lies in its many tiny air filled cells. Suberin is a waxy substance found in the cell walls of its honeycomb like structure and is one of its chief constituents. Its main function is to prevent moisture from penetrating the tissue while forming a barrier to harmful solutes that wish to penetrate its walls.

Enough of the chemistry that goes into this incredible material let’s discuss more about why cork flooring is perfect for the home.

Among the main reasons for cork right now in your customer’s home are the high style looks and visuals being offered by top manufacturers such as Amorim Revestimentos, the largest cork flooring manufacturer in the world. Over the years Amorim has developed flooring with exclusive properties due to its Corktech technology. Its new visuals meet the modern design trends for flooring in today’s marketplace. The ever-present fashion conscious consumer is thirsting for more and more of the progressive enhancements being added to cork’s style. This yearning fits right into the innovative new digital/direct print with Realistic Surface Technology that includes products in the newer cork flooring collections currently being featured in many retailers’ showrooms.

These digitally enhanced direct print looks provide all of the features and benefits of cork while being able to offer the consumer a multitude of textures and visuals that resemble wood, stone, tile and marble. The naked eye cannot discern the floor is made up of cork yet it also can’t detect that the floor is actually not a hickory, marble or travertine product. These truly stunning visuals provide the bridge from the older traditional looks of cork to the more modern and mainstream looks in demand right now. Cork is also now available in the rapidly growing LVT segment along with true wood veneers being used on top of cork.

In addition cork provides warmth while creating an optimum floor temperature. It is serene, beautiful and silent while originating from nature and is truly sustainable. It is lightweight yet very durable, reduces noise in the indoor environment, it provides elasticity and resistance to indention while being impermeable to liquids and gases. It carries GreenGuard certification along with LEED points from all the major categories except one.

The built-in suberin in cork that provides the elasticity and resistance to indentation in flooring also provides a tremendous health benefit in physical comfort for the consumer as well. Walking or standing on harder surfaces than cork creates energy that moves upward through the body toward our muscles and tendons. Over time these vibrations hurt our feet, legs and upper/lower back areas creating an excess of tension.


Body Comfort

The biomechanical properties built into a cork floor provide comfort to our bodies through its inherent flexibility. We’ve all been through the trade show wars when at the end of the day you feel like you are standing on your feet with pins and needles in your lower back and legs. Cork being softer than wood but harder than carpet provides the perfect balance to reduce heel strike pain while relieving leg and back stress.

Cork flooring is the most comfortable product for the single biggest investment in your customer’s life, which of course is her home.

Cork is the greenest and most environmentally friendly product in the world. It is a renewable raw material that absorbs millions of tons of CO2 every year before it enters the atmosphere reversing the affect of these emissions. It contains extremely low VOCs lending itself to a healthier indoor environment. Cork is a clean, aseptic material with naturally occurring anti-microbial qualities and it does not rot.

The sustainability story of cork is unmatched in the industry today. Cork oak trees are never cut down for production. The bark is simply harvested from around the tree after its initial harvest in its 25th year. Every year a new bark grows making it a renewable and sustainable resource. The outer bark is subsequently harvested every ninth year in a careful manner that preserves the trees, jobs and the environment.

The long-term durability of cork is bolstered by the fact of its UV cured, factory applied polyurethane finishes featuring ceramic nano bead technology. This helps cork withstand years of wear and tear and helps to preserve the floor while making it appear as good as the day it was installed.

Did you know that cork flooring has been installed in the Library of Congress for many decades? These finishes also help fight dirt, germs or fungus, thus actively contributing to a healthy and hygienic environment.


Acoustical Benefits

The natural acoustical properties built into the honeycomb like structure in cork promotes a quieter indoor environment while reducing sound transmissions between floors. These floors are exceptionally efficient to use whenever noise reduction is critical to a home, in a study or music studio. It is a natural sound absorber that cuts noise within a room when someone walks on the floor (step sound) and even acts as a noise buffer between the floor and the rooms underneath (impact sound).

The special surface finishes in cork flooring today make them much easier to clean and maintain providing a very low and easy maintenance feature in your home. The low gloss finishes help minimize the cinder invaders that want to dig in and mar the beautiful looks of your floor as well.

Lastly, today’s cork floors offer fast and easy installation in floating floors using today’s latest mechanical locking systems. These features can help save both time and money. Cork planks can also be purchased in a traditional glue down format thanks to the recently launched plywood core offerings in the marketplace.

America truly loves cork, naturally.


Tim Tomkins is a 30-year veteran of the floor covering business that began as a territory manager in Phoenix for Lee’s Carpets, which was then a division of Burlington Industries. He moved to hard surface sales in the mid 1990s and has held positions as vice president of sales for both Anderson Hardwood Floors and Harris Wood Floors. Tomkins currently serves as the national marketing director for Amorim Flooring North America. To contact him, call (443) 994-8122, or email